Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Party Summer, or “Psycho Goes to the Beach”
The first Super Chiller of the Fear Street Collection, and a personal favourite of mine. It’s a combination of an Edwardian ghost story and a Hitckcock-ian suspense, although, obviously, not as well done.
It begins with Cari, of supermodel good looks, and her three friends Jan, Eric and Craig, are invited to work at the Howling Wolf Inn for the summer. Cari is the normal one, Jan is a goth, Eric is described as scrawny and alternative (because he has an earring!) and Craig is the preppy one. The Howling Wolf Inn is a luxury resort isolated on its own island, owned by a friend of Jan’s aunt Rose. Rose is a famous author, and wanted to finish her next novel there, so they’re all going to stay for the summer. The Party Summer.
Things go wrong immediately. Rose gets violently ill on the way and has to be left behind. The four teenagers go on alone to the island. There is only one boat a day that goes out to the hotel, and they are the only ones aboard. They arrive at the resort, which is a decrepit old mansion situated on a beach (?) – interesting. In my head, it looks like the Haunted Mansion in Disney World, so lets go with that, although situated on the New England coast. Unfortunately, the resort is shut down and a very rude man tells them to go away. No more party summer.
Fortunately, the rude man is only the servant, and our young heroes eventually meet the owner of the hotel, Simon Fear the Third – the great nephew of the original Simon Fear of Fear Street. Awesome time to comment about how creepy Fear Street is at night … Anyway, Simon Fear is tall, handsome, with flowing white hair. Go silver fox! He charms them and asks them to stay the summer to help him with his renovations, since all his workers have disappeared. Awesome! Not suspicious at all! Party summer back on!
The next day they party on the beach. Cari and Eric are all over each other. Every single time Cari looks at Eric, she thinks “my how attractive Eric is, I never noticed before” except she says this EVERY SINGLE TIME she sees him in the book. Cari, just admit you want it, so we can all move on. Jan is being pissy, because everyone keeps making fun of her because they are constantly interrupting her performing séances and trying to contact spirits and such. They think this is weird (it is) and she gets sulky. She insists the Howling Wolf is haunted and will prove it. Just then an ominous shadow falls across them (gasp!) … it’s Simon, with a picnic dinner for them, a little too much build up there.
Simon tells them stories about Simon Fear the First, which I think is the first time the back story of Fear Street is mentioned in the series. It goes into much greater depth in the Sage, although I’m not sure if the story is the same. He talks about how Simon and Angelica Fear moved to Shadyside and built a mansion in the middle of a creepy forest. They used to be rich and have great parties until the day their two daughters were found dead in the woods with all their bones removed, which always grossed me out. Anyways, Simon and Angelica went insane and burnt their mansion down, and Fear Street has been haunted ever since.
Things start getting spookier at the Inn – it’s called atmosphere building. They can’t get in touch with Jan’s aunt. Jan sees the ghost of a woman with burning eyes, and Cari hears Simon arguing with a woman in a locked room – although there are no other women on the island! She is pleading with him to have no party. While removing wallpaper in one room, they find a secret doorway. They follow a long passage underground to a room with a skull on the table. It’s covered in goop. Jan tells them all it is protoplasm, which can only be made by a ghost. This is pure proof there’s a ghost around, so they all believe her of course. Goop = ghost. They’re locked into the passageway, but find another way out onto the beach.
There is also another person in the mansion, Simon’s crazy brother Edward. Cari is the only person who sees him for a long time (another ghost? Is he goopy?), and he is as messy and gross and Simon is charming and silver foxy. Oddly enough, Edward and Simon are NEVER seen in the same room together. Jan decides to try to contact the spirit of the Inn, then goes missing for days. After a few days they start to worry – maybe she just decided to take off for awhile – but things get even worse when Cari and Eric hear Simon, Edward, and the mystery woman fighting in a room together, and Edward shoots Simon. Edward comes out muttering about a terrible accident. Only, somehow, there’s no body, no blood, and no woman in the room after he leaves. They freak out, which I think is a genuinely good idea, and try to get off the island. No go. The one boat has been canceled, the canoes have been hidden, and the telephone lines are down (of course).
There’s an awful lot of screaming and running around at this point, but the essential thing is Edward is batshit crazy, and decides to have a hunting party … where he hunts them. They find a room full of mounted heads – human heads. More screaming and running around ensues, and they try to escape using the secret tunnel. Eric falls into a hole like the spaz that he is, but accidently uncovers a secret room, where Jan and her aunt have been held captive for days. Rose is kinda hungry, so they decide the absolute best thing to do in a situation like this is to go back to the mansion where they can fix a snack, then carry on with the screaming and running around. Predictably, someone finds them there. It’s … Simon Fear the Third!
There is much hugging and shouts of happiness, but Simon is not doing too well. After a lot of muttering and such, he slowly transforms into Edward. Oh noes! He was the same person all along! Who saw that coming? The absolute best is that the transformation that takes place is this: Simon hunches over, untucks one side of his shirt, messes his hair, and puts on an eyepatch. Instant crazy brother. It’s like a really terrible Halloween costume (I’m me … only a little bit messy … and I only have one eye … see?) This really fooled everyone, and they were all shocked. Turns out Simon has three personas, that of his messy brother, and that of his dead wife. All of them are crazy. They argue with each other for awhile, then decide to kill them.
Cari is definitely the heroine of the book, because she steps up and demands he shoot her first. Simon willingly obliges, but the shooting has no effect on Cari at all! Is she a ghost? She’s not goopy … no, she just realized that the hunting rifle was full of blanks. Simon does believe she’s a ghost, then Simon, Edward, and dead wife all have a big argument, where Simon finally wins, and charmingly asks them all for a snack. The end.
I actually found this book really amusing. For a Fear Street book, it had potential. I was a little disappointed in the crappy Simon-Edward costuming, it made me think everyone in this book was an idiot – and the ending was completely wtf, but other than that, I give it 5 fake eyepatches out of 7. Not bad R. L., not bad at all.
L. K. Stine